In 2014, Italian filmmaker Paolo Sorrentino won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards for his feature “The Great Beauty.” An ode to the creative fallouts and personal crises suffered by artists, “The Great Beauty” helped establish Sorrentino as a powerful and important filmmaker. His latest film, “È stata la mano di Dio,” or “The Hand of God,” fresh off an Oscar nomination at this year’s Academy Awards, is no exception.
Written and directed by Sorrentino, “The Hand of God” tells the story of a young boy — Fabietto — who comes of age during the 1980s in Naples, Italy. Surrounded by his loving yet abnormal family, as well as the media hype around Argentinian soccer legend Diego Maradonna’s potential move to their local club, Fabietto moves through his naturalistic setting with bumps and inspiration.
Like his previous films, Sorrentino has a love for realist cinematography, shooting scenes as they would appear to the naked eye. “The Hand of God,” if anything, could be simply described as beautiful for aesthetic and looks alone, where the Naples coastline complements the rustic cobblestone streets riddled carefully with multi-colored scooters. It is as immersive as it is teasing, to the point of sensation. It is sensual, from both the visually but also plot aspects itself, as we witness Fabietto come of age among a crowd of beautiful individuals, himself enticed and entranced by his environment to a point of comatose.
On this note, Sorrentino continues his exploration of sexuality and sexual independence rather fluidly, in both blatant and disturbing methods — one of which won’t be named for the sake of spoilers but also innocence. Such a thing makes sense though, for a pubescent film revolving around one teenage boy’s coming of age is bound to consist of something sexual.
Sorrentino handles this in true fashion, nonetheless — or more appropriately — in true liberal fashion where expression and freedom of one’s body is more abundant. Now there is no need to go on about the extent to which body freedom is depicted, but again, Sorrentino’s techniques build the naturalism to his story.
Emotionally, “The Hand of God” comes off as a rather peculiar being, with a central tragedy serving as the character’s fallout but also his segway toward becoming a “man.” Sorrentino is masterful in his combination of emotions that are complemented by his slow style of cinema and storytelling. A family picnic on a coastal villa finds both crude and funny banter that is intertwined with discussion of affairs as well as the philosophy of certain aspects of life. These moments are abundant in Sorrentino’s feature and can be further understood as yet another example of the reality to his story, where one feels as if they are a part of Fabietto’s family — one with their relatives.
Characters on that note exist in grounded but also unique manners, where each one stands for a different thing but is also there for one another. Given the extension to which the story revolves around an extended family, we have a plethora of characters, but nonetheless, Sorrentino properly introduces and gives each one their own story.
That said, the main focus of the relationship between characters lies in Fabietto and his brother — a college-aged kid who dreams of starring in Fellini films. Fabietto is innocent and is yet to come of age as a high schooler, a contrast to his mature and experienced older brother. Though his older brother speaks to him about certain things in his life that he deems important, it is Fabietto himself who makes the effort to learn about them. This individualism to his character helps paint a larger picture of one teenager’s journey from boy to man.
Compiled together with clever religious allegory and an impeccable reference in the title to Maradona’s infamous handball goal at the 1986 World Cup, “The Hand of God” serves as a momentous example of the journeys of youth.